10 Things To Know About Astronomy And The Dogon People Of Mali

10 Things To Know About Astronomy And The Dogon People Of Mali


The Dogon are renowned for their knowledge about the Sirius star system which dates back to 3,200 BC. Performers wearing traditional Dogon masks participate in a campaign rally for presidential candidate Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in Bandiagara, Dogon Country, Mali, July 21, 2013. Image: AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

The Dogon people of West Africa are shrouded in mystery due to their knowledge of astronomy that pre-dates modern technology by thousands of years.

About 300,000 members of the Dogon live in Mali, and they have known information about the stars before telescopes were invented.

The Dogon claim that their knowledge of astronomy involves contact with extraterrestrial life dating back to around 3,200 BC.

Here are 10 things to know about astronomy and the Dogon people of Mali.

The Dogon and Sirius A

The Dogon are renowned for knowledge about the Sirius star system dating back to 3,200 B.C. The West African people knew specific information about Sirius A, which is the brightest star in Earth’s night sky. The Dogon knew that a much dimmer star, now known as Sirius B, is extremely dense and has a 50-year elliptical orbit around the bright Sirius A star, according to Medium.

Long before modern science

Western scientists discovered the Sirius system in 1862. The star system is 8.6 light-years away from Earth. In 2005, astronomers were finally able to precisely mark the Sirius B star using the Hubble Space Telescope. Historians and scientists struggle to explain the Dogon’s understanding of that specific star system.

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Stories of alien visits

One of the theories to explain the Dogon’s advanced knowledge of astronomy is that alien life visited the Dogon people long ago and taught them about astronomy. This is backed up by stories that the Dogon pass down from generation to generation involving extraterrestrial life that visited them, which they refer to as the Nommos, according to Face2FaceAfrica.

Description of the Nommos

The Dogon people describe the Nommos as ugly amphibious beings that resembled mermaids and mermen which lived on a planet that rotated around other stars in the Sirius system. The Nommos, which are also called the “masters of the water” by the Dogon, are supposed to have reached Earth by coming down from space in what is described in Dogon tradition as an “ark-like structure”, according to Earth-Chronicles.

Celebrating Sirius A’s orbit

The Dogon celebrate Sirius A’s 50-year elliptical orbit around Sirius B with the Sigui celebration. This happens when the star Sirius appears between two specific mountain peaks. Before the ceremony, young Dogon men go into seclusion for three months, during which they talk in a secret language to commemorate the visit of the Nommos to Earth, according to Britannica.

Sigui celebration every 60 years

The Sigui celebration is not held every 50 years, in recognition of Sirius A’s 50-year elliptical orbit around Sirius B, but rather every 60 years. It is not clear why this is the case. The last Sigui celebration was held in 1967, so the next celebration is expected to take place in 2027.

Emme Ya, a third star

The Dogon people had information about planets in Earth’s solar system before scientists made those discoveries, including the fact that Saturn has rings or that Jupiter has four major moons. The Dogons also have ancient texts that discuss a third star in the Sirius system that they call “Emme Ya”, which was not identified or discovered by modern astronomers. In 1995, a research study concluded that the presence of a third star orbiting Sirius could not be ruled out.

Tourist attraction

There an estimated 300,000 Dogons living in Mali. The mysterious nature of their understanding of astronomy and their well-preserved culture attracts tourists, anthropologists and historians.

They are of Egyptian descent

The Dogon people live in the central plateau region of Mali but are believed to be of Egyptian descent. The distance between the two countries, with Mali in West Africa and Egypt in North Africa, is around 2,300 miles. After living in the region of Libya, they are believed to have migrated to the region of Burkina Faso, Guinea or Mauritania before fleeing invaders or drought around 1490 A.D. and settling in the Bandiagara cliffs of central Mali.

Four calendars

The Dogon use four calendars which are based on the sun, moon, Sirius, and Venus. They knew long before western scientists that the planets in Earth’s solar system, including Earth, orbit the sun, according to SacredSites.